Detection of Pathogens Using Dynamically Reconfigurable Liquid Colloid Particles

Detection of Pathogens Using Dynamically Reconfigurable Liquid Colloid Particles
Timothy Swager, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry; Alexander M. Klibanov, Novartis Professor, Chemistry and Bioengineering

Period of performance: 

September 2016 to August 2018
sensor, food safety, public health, smartphone, biosensor, pathogen, modular


Foodborne diseases are a major public health concern in the United States and worldwide. It is estimated that each year approximately 48 million, or one in six, Americans become ill as a result of consuming food or water contaminated with pathogens or pathogenic toxins. Overall, in the United States alone, foodborne illnesses cost an estimated $55.5 billion per year.

Given the high costs associated with foodborne illnesses, developing a simple, inexpensive, and selective device that can be used on-site to rapidly test large amounts of food samples for the presence of hazardous pathogens should be highly marketable to the food industry. The Swager lab recently reported on a new class of dynamically reconfigurable liquid colloid particles (LCPs) that are particularly powerful in liquid phase detection schemes. These particles are simple to make, scalable, and can be easily tuned to specifically detect different analytes, like pH, light, and magnetic fields.

In this proposal, we intend to illustrate a path to a biosensor that utilizes sensory LCPs to detect preselected pathogens, taking advantage of well-studied carbohydrate-pathogen binding interactions (bioreceptor) and detection by naked-eye or emissive-based optical readouts (transducer). The design is modular and we believe that we will be able to selectively detect a large number of bacterial, viral, and protozoan pathogens that commonly cause food poisoning. During the grant period, we will focus on (1) evaluating the proposed detection scheme for sensing pathogens with high selectivity and sensitivity and (2) developing visualization techniques for these LCPs using emissive-light techniques.